The Power of Brand Storytelling


By Chad Jones

I want to tell you a story.  

When I was a kid, 6 or 7, I was visiting my grandfather at our family farm.  We were on our morning feed routine that involved going into the barn, filling a bucket with feed and then walking to the back acres to fill the cow trough.  While he slid the barn door closed I jump down from the corral gate to start our walk.  I didn’t realize Rojo, a massive bull, was standing behind me, and I had startled him.  He began charging and I, all 50 pounds of me, was pinned between this beast and the barn.  Without flenching my grandfather made a fist, turned and punched Rojo square in his jaw.  Stunned, the bull shook his head a little, let out a sneeze and walked the other direction.  My grandfather picked up the bucket of feed and said, “Reckon you scared him a bit.”  And with that, we continued our routine.

I love telling that story because I feel that it perfectly encapsulates my grandfather.  With that one story I feel you now know him in some small way.  That’s the power of the story.  It connects people, and that is why storytelling has such huge part to play in marketing your business.

Why It Works

The brain works in analogies.  This means that every thought process is an amalgamation of past experience as well as present information.  Bullet points of your product or service can be helpful in educating your customer, but it will not create a relatable story that will connect with them.  Simon Sinek gave a great Ted Talk about selling the “Why” of your company.  If you haven’t seen it I strongly recommend it.  The gist is that people don’t buy what you do they by why you do it, and this is all grounded in biology.  The part of the brain that drives behavior isn’t responsible for logic.  In other words, bullet points aren’t driving sales.  To do that you need to appeal to the emotional part of the brain and perhaps the best way to do that is brand storytelling.  

Crafting Your Story

Start with some simple questions. What is your company’s mission?  Why did it start?  What problems does it solve, and perhaps most importantly, how do you want to be viewed?  Knowing the answers to these questions will help you construct a plot for your brand’s story.

The Plot

The plot of your story is simply what the story is about.  Let’s talk about Johnson Auto,  an auto parts dealer in a small rural town. Johnson prides itself in going the extra mile for farmers, ranchers, and local residents when they need parts.  Brand storytelling doesn’t need to be complicated.  In the case of Johnson Auto the story should revolve around convenience, dependability and the owner’s pride in personal service.

A farmer breaks down on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of a wheat field and needs a part for his combine.  He makes a quick call to the owner of Johnson Auto who hand delivers the part within the hour.

That’s it!  A simple plot for a story that conveys what Johnson Auto is all about.  From there it’s just about building out and making it relatable to your target audience.

Make Your Customer the Hero

When I was a kid on the farm I would spend hours pretending I was Indiana Jones.  I had the whip and the hat, and I would run around imagining saving folks from precarious boulders and sinister villains.  I won every time.  In those stories I was always the hero.  I’m sure you have your own stories you acted out as a child and just as you and I loved to be the hero, make your customer the hero of your brand’s story.

It may seem like Johnson Auto is the hero of their story.  The business owner who leaves the comfort of his home and drives to the store and then to the field to deliver a needed part on a 100 degree day. However making the customer the hero is far more effective.  The farmer who was able to finish harvesting his wheat after repairs just before the thunderstorm rolled in that evening is the hero. Johnson just played a supporting role. By making the customer the hero of your story they are quickly and easily able to see how they could benefit from your products and services and how they will personally be impacted by working with you.

Adjectives, Verbs and Adverbs Oh My!

I know what you’re thinking. You think that your products and services are too dull for a great story. It’s true that some goods and services are easier to relate to than others. But, let’s face it, Johnson Auto is about auto parts. At first glance, that doesn’t appear to be a thrilling product, right? It’s important to remember that you are marketing your story to your customers and prospective customers. They know your products, your services, and their industry. Your story is familiar, and perhaps even exciting to your audience.

Childlike Enthusiasm

Be enthusiastic when telling your brand story. Share your passion for your company when marketing to customers and prospects. Think of the energy that spills out of a child when they are telling a story. Even when speaking in a professional forum, be enthusiastic and passionate about what you do. When done well, your enthusiasm will be contagious.

Tell It Again

Remember the fishing excursion story? Remember the story of Aunt Martha forgetting the rolls in the oven every Thanksgiving dinner? Great stories are told and retold over and over. The story of your brand is no different.  I don’t mean to suggest you create one story and it will be shared in the same way.  You craft many stories that all carry the same message and over time that message will become synonymous with your brand.  The story that will be retold about Johnson Auto is that they are caring and reliable.  Those traits will resonate with their target audience and farmers will turn to them when they have the need.

You’ll Live Happily Ever After

When I think of my grandfather I think of a tough man.  I think of a protector.  The stories I tell of him are all stories that revolve around those traits, because that’s how I remember him.  Your brand story should have the same effect on your customers and prospects.  The stories you tell should convey why you’re doing what you do.  When done right, there is no better way to connect with your customer.    

Alright, it’s your turn.  Tell me a story.

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Chad Jones